A new Beveridge report?

The Beveridge report was commissioned following the Second World War to consider how the country could be rebuilt. It was published in 1942, and included recommendations on national healthcare, national insurance and assistance schemes.  

There has recently been discussion about the commission of a new Beveridge-type report to reflect on how Britain can repair following the coronavirus pandemic. Researchers from the Social Policy Association consider who could be involved in report like this and what they think the new welfare state should look like.  

The researchers argue that a range of diverse voices must be included in any new report, so it does not rely on the “white-male-breadwinner-female-caregiver model”They point to initiatives such as Scotland’s Citizens’ Assembly and London’s Commission on Social Security as examples of attempts at this type of participatory democracyThey state that policy makers need to use a “bottom-up approach” to understand what citizens really want from their system.  

The researchers go on to say that people in the UK would “actually like to see a more progressive welfare state”, although they do not agree on a way to achieve this. They argue that any successful welfare state needs to encompass both those in destitution and the middle class, to avoid stigmatisation and a ‘them and us’ attitude. They also believe it needs to consider investment in childcare and social care and should have a focus on work-life balance to reduce the time poverty that some workers face.  

Ultimately, the researchers argue that “in every crisis there is an opportunity” and this report may serve as a way to “future proof against risks ahead of us”.  

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The two child limit

In this article, using research sponsored by the Nuffield Foundation, the authors evaluate how fit-for-purpose the UK’s two-child limit benefit system is, particularly in light of the coronavirus pandemic. 

First, the authors outline the support available to families in different countries. In France and Germany, higher rates of child benefit are given for third and subsequent children. In the US, child benefit assistance has been linked to family size “to varying degrees” since the 1990s.  

In the UK, financial support through the benefit system has been limited to the first two children in a family since 2017. The authors state that child-contingent benefits have been cut by 19% in real terms since 2010, which has culminated in an increase in overall child poverty.  

The authors then look at recent developments in this policy area in the US under the new Biden administration. They state that the President’s reformed US Child Tax Credit scheme could halve US child poverty in 2021. In evaluating how the UK’s policy compares to that of the US, the authors argue it does not measure uwell, and give three main reasons:  

  • Child assistance payments in the UK are tied to birth orderwhilst the US system will be paid on a per-child basis regardless of family size or birth order.  
  • The main child support payment is “significantly more generous” in the US than a comparable payment in the UK.  
  • Whilst the UK’s child benefit system is means-tested, the US’s new scheme will be near universal.  

The authors conclude that the pandemic has caused many more families to rely on the benefit system than before. They argue that developments in this area in the US should prompt the UK Government to “re-think its approach”.  

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Access to healthy food

As part of the British Medical Journal’s ‘Food for thought’ collection, researchers consider the current evidence on how access to healthy food can be improved. They say that this issue is of importance as global health inequities are driven in part by dietary inequities.  

First, the researchers outline the findings of previous research in the area. They state that healthier foods and diets often cost more for consumers. Lower affordability of foods, either because of high prices or low incomes, is linked to less healthy diets and poorer health outcomes. They go on to say that time-cost is also a factor to consider, as some healthy food can be affordable in terms of ingredients, but this price rises when the time taken to prepare meals is accounted for.  

The article then outlines key initiatives undertaken by governments in different countries to promote healthier eating. These range from subsidising incomesproviding food directly through food banks, or by introducing taxes on less healthy foods and beveragesThe researchers argue that current research into the issue, and policy initiatives developed through this research, does not fully acknowledge its complexities or take into account wider social inequity or the fragility of global supply chains 

They state that further research in this area must “adapt and evolve urgently”; it must engage with multi-disciplinary perspectives to accurately capture the intricacies between affordability and availability of food, diet quality and health.  

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